Three Quick Reactions to the Steelers’ First Round Draft Day
photo via Steelers.com
I said yesterday I wasn’t going to write any more about the draft until we came back from our anniversary trip, but we don’t leave until tomorrow, and I just have to take a few minutes out from packing and such to comment on last night.
What a day for Pittsburgh sports! The Penguins beat the Capitals in the first game of the second round, in Washington, but considering that Washington has been their traditional second-round opponent every time they’ve won the cup, perhaps it isn’t surprising. It is a bit more surprising that they did it without Carl Hagelin and Evgeni Malkin, but there you are.
Then comes the news that Jung Ho Gung, the Korean player the Pirates had presumably given up on ever seeing again, finally got a visa. It’s been a year and a half, at least. There are plenty who would say the Pirates should turn their back on him, and there’s no doubt he screwed up royally. Nor does anyone know whether he’s still good at baseball. But I’m hoping this is the chance he needs to turn his life around. How quick we are as a society to turn on celebrities. Perhaps it makes us feel better about ourselves. I’m personally a big fan of second (or in his case, rather more than second) chances. It’s certainly his last one.
And speaking of second (and third) chances, the thing that Kevin Colbert swore wasn’t going to happen happened yesterday—the Steelers traded Martavis Bryant to the Raiders for a third-round pick. I think it is excellent for everyone. The Steelers get a pick back for the fourth-rounder they traded to the 49ers for Vance McDonald, but a much better one—middle of the 3rd round. They can pick up another big receiver, probably in the 2nd or 3rd round, and hopefully everyone is happy. Bryant gets a fresh start and the Steelers get to move on from a question mark.
After all, there are three possible scenarios for this coming season with Bryant on the roster. 1) He has a monster season and then parlays that into a huge contract with another team. Great for 2018, not so great ongoing. 2) He has an up-and-down season like last year and frustrates everyone, including himself, because he stops getting “mines.” Bad for the team, bad for the locker room, I’m guessing. Or the worst scenario—3) he isn’t doing well or getting enough balls, gets depressed, smokes some weed, and bang, he’s out of football, maybe forever. I’m guessing he’ll be a focus of the offense in Oakland, at least unless he proves himself unworthy of it, and he can blossom. Hopefully he won’t do so the week we have to play the Raiders, in Oakland, but that’s the breaks…
And then there was the surprise announcer of the Steelers’ pick. Ryan Shazier walked to the podium with his fiancee to make the pick. If you haven’t seen the video, check it out. It’s front and center on Steelers.com. If you can watch it and not tear up, you’re a hard-hearted person, is all I can say.
And of course many are tearing up, in a different sense, over the pick itself. It absolutely came out of nowhere—rather like the Ryan Shazier pick, actually. But even more so. Most don’t have anything against Terrell Edmunds, only that they felt he should have been taken in the third round. The Steelers, obviously, didn’t feel that way, nor, apparently, did they feel comfortable trading down and taking a chance on him being gone. (Or perhaps they couldn’t find any trade partners.)
I’ve read a bit of the analysis, and here’s what stood out to me:
Edmunds is a hybrid safety who can play at the line of scrimmage and can play some man coverage.
He is in the super high character mold of recent drafts. The man he and his brother Trumaine (who was taken by the Bills at Pick 16,) trained with the same guy, and according to Mike Mayock said that the two young men were the politest and nicest young men he’d ever worked with. With any luck this means that Edmunds will say “I’m sorry” when he’s forced to snatch a ball away from an opposing receiver.
Because yes, he has ball skills. Not so much last year as in 2016. But it turns out there’s a reason—he was playing with an injured shoulder for the whole season, until he finally had to give up and have the surgery. Kevin Colbert said they were impressed by this, and I assume they are thinking his 2016 tape is more realistic, assuming Edmunds is healthy.
And this also demonstrates his commitment to the team—that he would continue to play, knowing he couldn’t play as well, and that it was going to hurt his draft stock.
And finally, he was responsible for lining up the defense, and apparently was very good at it. His plus communication skills were undoubtedly one of the things that attracted Tomlin and Colbert to him.
Well, there’s no telling whether he will turn out to be a Jarvis Jones or a (hopefully luckier) Ryan Shazier. You could pretty much say that about anybody they took. But hopefully a similar scenario will play out to Shazier’s draft year, in that many thought the Steelers might take Stephon Tuitt in the first round and were outraged at the pick. And instead the Steelers got both men*. I’m hopeful that someone they had highly graded will fall to them in the second round.
We will see. In the meantime, it’s going to be hard to top last night, in terms of sheer Pittsburgh sports drama.
And now I really am shutting this down. Unless, of course, the Steelers’ next three picks all come from my mock drafts. Who knows what I would do then?
*They still have Shazier. He of course will not be able to play this season. And very possibly not ever. Coming back from an injury like that when you’re a player whose game is predicated on blazing speed is extremely difficult, in terms of whether you can ever be the same player. One can’t help but think of Sean Spence. If I were Shazier’s fiancee I would be praying every chance I got that he never walks onto another football field, at least in a uniform. But watching his indomitable spirit is inspiring for everyone, and the Steelers seem determined to involve and utilize him as much as possible.